Since Hotel Artemis is hitting the big screens soon, I decided to revisit another awesome action flick, John Wick: Chapter 2.
But first, a quick recap on my feelings towards John Wick: Chapter 1.
I remember watching the first John Wick like it was just four years ago. It was a Thursday night and I needed to catch a movie to write a review on, at work. There were no “anticipated” movies screening at that time, not one I haven’t yet seen, anyway. So, I told myself, you know what? Fu*k it. Let’s just watch this John Wick nonsense. A movie directed by former stunt-choreographers and starring a has-been, coming out fresh from working in projects like 47 Ronin and Man of Tai Chi? It seemed like John Wick was going to be such a huge steaming pile of garbage, that I would have a ton of fun murdering it in my review.
Oh…. How very wrong I turned out to be.
Who can forget this scene? One of the coolest, most epic scenes in action movie history. It is so insanely badass, that it eats the “I will find you and I will kill you” scene from Taken and spits it out into your neighbour’s drain. Needless to say, I was PUMPED for John Wick: Chapter 2. You know a movie is fu*king BOSS when the title reads CHAPTER 2 instead of just ‘2’. Yesterday, I decided to catch this rollercoaster ride again to get pumped for Lionsgate upcoming action flick, Hotel Artemis (is just an excuse I used to convince my girlfriend that I NEED to watch John Wick again).
Shit is still awesome, I can tell you that. #JesusChrist
John Wick: Chapter 2 starts off in a manner which screams, BUCKLE YOUR SEATBELTS MOFOS, THIS SHIT IS GONNA BE LIKE REDBULL + COFFEE + THAT ADRENALINE YOU FELT WHEN YOU LOST YOUR VIRGINITY ON AN AIRPLANE !!!!!!!<<< Note, all caps and SEVEN exclamation marks.
Look, I’m not usually a fan of car chase sequences. However, when it’s shot with such grace and style like it is here, I’m all in. One thing I hate about most action movies is the fact that almost nothing on screen is comprehensible. All the action scenes consist of nothing but shaky cam, a billion jump cuts and a middle finger to the audience. Seriously, wtf Resident Evil? Are you trying to give me a headache?
Chad Stahelski and David Leitch – only Stahelski for this second instalment – deserve high praise for their work on the John Wick franchise, thus far. Every single action sequence, whether it involves moving vehicles, guns or hand-to-hand combat, is filmed beautifully. No shaky cam bullshit, whatsoever. It’s not often we see pure action flicks that are just dripping with passion. As far as recent films go, only Mad Max: Fury Road, the John Wick franchise and to a lesser extent, Atomic Blonde, comes to mind. These movies are a reminder that even action movies can be more than just throwaway nonsense. They can be art pieces.
Of course, for the directors to film action scenes in such a crisp manner, Keanu Reeves had to do most, if not all of the stunts, himself. And he does so brilliantly.
While the action sequences are pretty much the backbone of John Wick: Chapter 2, that isn’t necessarily what makes the movie a blast from start till end. What separates the John Wick franchise from your average, revenge action flick – Taken / The Equalizer – is its mythology. In the John Wick universe, mobsters may live amongst civilians, but they live by a different set of rules. Police officers respect them, they trade using pirate doubloons, and perhaps the most interesting: Continental Hotels – pretty much a sacred ground for these assassins, in which no business (aka killing/fighting) may be conducted.
Chapter 2 expands this mythology. At the start of the film, we see two mobsters talking to each other.
Older mobster: He once killed three men in a bar… with a pencil… with a fucking pencil.
My initial thought was, that’s weird? Are they actually rehashing dialogues from the first movie? Except, the younger mobster then responds.
Younger mobster: Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard the story.
Older mobster: Well, you should know that that’s the watered-down version.
And immediately I changed my mind from “that’s weird,” to “that’s so cool.” You see, the Baba Yaga story has become legendary in the mobster community. Maybe even fairy-tale like. Everyone talks about it. But, if that’s the watered-down version, then what’s the uncensored version? What part of the story is real and what’s fabricated? Perhaps we will get a flashback in the third chapter? Maybe we will never find out.
Once again, we explore the Continental Hotel. In one scene, John Wick and Cassian (Common), have drinks with each other in the hotel, when merely two seconds ago, they were trying to rip each other’s throats out. No business may be conducted on Continental grounds.
We’re also introduced to new aspects of this universe such as blood honour and also admins/clerks who work in what seems to be the HQ for the mobsters. I know, I know, clerks doing paperwork in an office sounds boring. But you have to remember, this is the John Wick universe, and in the John Wick universe, everything is BADASS. I hope in the third movie, they show us the toilets in the mobster HQ. Are the toilet bowls made of gold? Are you allowed to conduct business while conducting “business”? The possibilities are endless.
Is the movie perfect? No. Some of the dialogues written by Derek Kolstad (who also penned the first film) falls flat, comprising mostly of one-liners. But the actors make it work. From Keanu Reeves to Lawrence Fishburne to Ian McShane, everyone looks like they’re having the time of their lives playing these characters.
One major gripe I have with the movie is that it is void of an emotional core. John Wick’s motivation in the first movie is straightforward. A bunch of assholes killed his dog, which happens to be his wife’s dying gift. Simple, yet effective. It’s difficult to get emotionally invested in Chapter 2 because he has already gotten his revenge. Now, what you’re left with is a man who has lost everything he ever cared about. How do you connect with someone who has absolutely nothing to lose? How do you connect with someone who is doing what he’s doing, not because he’s enraged and wants to – like in the first movie – but because he has to, as the rules dictate?
Having said that, what we have here is world-building at its very best. The world unfolds slowly and we’re left salivating for more. I can’t wait for the third instalment.
Hey you! Yes you, hot stuff. Like my article? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Also, don’t forget to share it with your buds. And if you’d like to talk movies you can hit me up here: @dashtalksmovies